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Images: World Summer Games, NZ At Opening Ceremony

Images: World Summer Games, NZ At Opening Ceremony

A VERY SPECIAL DAY FOR THE NEW ZEALAND TEAM AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 2003 SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD SUMMER GAMES IN IRELAND

- Nelson Mandela, Muhammed Ali, Bono, U2, The Corrs, Ronan Keating -

On Saturday, 21st June, the Special Olympics New Zealand team joined an excited crowd of 75,000 at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, to witness the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

The Games - the largest sporting event in the world for 2003 - will showcase the athletic skills, courage and dignity of over 7,000 athletes with a learning disability from 160 countries around the world, with the Opening Ceremony being a fitting tribute to these people.

Opened by former South African President Nelson Mandela, with special guests Muhammed Ali, Ireland's President Mary McAleese, and Special Olympics Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver in attendance, and performers Bono, U2, The Corrs, and Ronan Keating adding to the sense of ceremony, the team certainly felt honoured. "This is their moment and we will have succeeded if they have the time of their lives", said Moya Doherty, Executive Director of Tyrone Productions, the company responsible for the planning of the ceremony.


Lighting The Flame

Among the other highlights of the entertainment was the coming together of the largest Riverdance group ever assembled, one hundred Riverdancers, drawn from companies worldwide and from Irish dance schools. Open Arts, the Belfast based theatre company comprising of 180 performers with a learning disability and 140 professionals created a special performance, Solstice inspired by the fact that the Opening Ceremony took place on the longest day of the year.


Arnold

The climax of the Ceremony was the arrival of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope following its 17-day journey through 15 European countries and every corner of Ireland. Team member Kylie Hogarth from Kaiapoi, North Canterbury, was chosen to represent New Zealand as torch bearer over the proceedings, an experience of which she said was "really awesome"! Kylie was the first torch bearer to enter the stadium - a very proud moment for New Zealand.

The New Zealand team was cheered on by over fifty supporters and family members who made the long trip to Ireland to share the spirit with their athletes. Many more supporters at home including major sponsor Sky City Auckland, SPARC, and Have A Snack will be waiting anxiously for results to come through as The Games proceeds until it's closing on Sunday, 29th of June.

The Closing Ceremony will combine the traditional pageantry of such a ceremony with a two hour concert featuring a star line up. During the Ceremony the presentation of the Special Olympics flag will be made to the Japan 2005 Special Olympics Winter Games Organising Committee. The extinguishing of the Special Olympics Flame will signify the conclusion of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

The New Zealand team will return to Auckland on Monday, 7th July, and media are invited to attend the welcome home celebrations at 7am, Auckland International Airport.


Released Via Hugo Shanahan Account Manager Hill & Knowlton Auckland p: +64 (9) 367 6370

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